World Heritage Convention Bill: briefing


01 September 1999
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Meeting report

1 September 1999

Documents handed out:
Presentation on World Heritage Convention Bill

Ms Abrahams the Deputy Director in the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism briefed the Committee on the World Convention Heritage Bill, 1999.

Ms T Abrahams the Deputy Director in the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism addressed the Committee on the World Heritage Convention (WHC) Bill.

In her background information she stated that South Africa signed the World Heritage Convention in 1997. She explained that a list of potential world heritage sites was compiled. Out of that list it was agreed that Robben Island in the Western Cape, the Fossil Hominid sites of Sterkfontein in Gauteng and the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park in KwaZulu Natal be nominated as World Heritage Sites.

Ms Abrahams quoted the duties of the Bill as similar to what is contained in articles 4 and 5 of the Convention. She further stated that it should be ensured that our domestic law is fit to cater for international standards. "Changing domestic law is a priority," said Ms Abrahams. Other duties of the Bill are to enforce the principles of the Convention; establishment of institutions to manage World Heritage Sites; monitoring and ensuring protection of the World Heritage Sites and, monitoring and ensuring proper financial control.

Significance of the WHC Bill
Ms Abrahams advised that this Bill is a clear sign of the commitment of the Government to the Convention. It further ensures South Africa and affected communities derive maximum benefit from the World Heritage Sites and the Convention. The Bill further contributes to tourism and rural development. She mentioned the final significance of the Bill as allowing the Minister oversight to ensure compliance and accommodate provincial differences.

Consultation processes gone through
Ms Abrahams announced that the Department has gone through a number of consultation processes such as: Cabinet approval, SA World Heritage Convention Committee, consultations with national departments, consultations with provinces, publications made in the Government Gazette for public comments, receiving of 48 written submissions and amendments to the Bill without deviating from what was approved by Cabinet.

Key changes made to the Bill since its publication
Ms Abrahams mentioned the amendments made to the Bill as comprising of the following:
Changes of technical and consequential nature
Changes that reflect the values of the Convention more expressly
Objectives of the Act
Enforcement and implementation
Identification and nomination of World Heritage Resources
Establishment of authorities
Integrated Management Plans
Land Section and the Finance and Resources Section

Q Ms S Van der Merwe (ANC) It seems each different site will have different authorities, how will that link up with the national authorities ?
A There should be someone on the ground looking after the site. It would be injustice to duplicate. For example, the KwaZulu Natal Nature Conservation has been looking after the St Lucia Park for many years.
Q Mr J Chalmers (ANC) Does the Bill have to be approved by UNESCO
or by some other authority.
A No, it does not have to.
Q Ms S Nqodi (ANC) What is the criteria used to qualify sites as suitable
World Heritage Sites.
A Before a site is identified as a World Heritage site it must
be a national Heritage site. It must be of outstanding universal value if
it is to qualify.
Q Mr R September (ANC) Surely sites like the Fort Hare University, where many of our leaders were educated, and important places like District Six should qualify.
A A site need not only be of interest to the country, it must be worthy of protection by the entire international community. We have these three sites in our tentative list and the others will be included within the next three years.
Q Ms S Nqodi (ANC) Who eventually decides that out of the national list a certain site is the right one for world status.
A We first submit nominations to UNESCO. They then send officials to visit sites and they report to the Bureau of World Committee who then hold meetings. It is at these meetings that the advisory bodies make recommendations. These recommendations are taken to the World Heritage Committee meeting which takes place in December of each year. So the World Heritage Committee decides based on the presentations of the advisory bodies.


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